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Depending on their specialization, social workers may help vulnerable populations access community resources, counsel couples on relationship issues, or support children dealing with bullying at school.

Social workers may also diagnose and treat disorders. Many social work jobs require a master's in social work and licensure.

Graduates with an MSW can work as clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and community service managers. They can also pursue careers as social policy advocates, social welfare researchers, and social program administrators.

Table of Contents

This guide ranks the best master's in social work programs to help prospective students identify the right program for their interests and career goals. This page also includes information on potential careers and salaries for graduates.

The Best Master's in Social Work Programs

1
Columbia University in the City of New York
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4

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 

Ann Arbor, MI

About this school

The state's oldest university, the University of Michigan dates back to 1817. The flagship campus offers a master's degree in social work with a range of specialization options. At Michigan, social work students pursue an interdisciplinary course of study based on the most recent research and evidence-based practices. Social work students with a BSW can complete their master's degree in 12 months. Michigan also offers a part-time option.

After completing a first-year curriculum that emphasizes generalist practice, students choose one of eight specialized pathways to tailor the MSW degree. These pathways let students apply their knowledge and gain specialized skills in their chosen focus area. Michigan offers focus areas in:

  • Global social work practice
  • Interpersonal practice in integrated health, mental health, and substance abuse
  • Community change
  • Management and leadership
  • Older adults and families
  • Children and families

Within each pathway, students take advanced coursework and field education focused on career-ready skills.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. The program looks for evidence of the intellectual and personal qualities required for careers in the social welfare system. In particular, the admissions committee looks for evidence of adaptability, critical thinking, good judgment, and strong oral and written communication skills. Michigan does not require standardized test scores for admission to the MSW program.

Graduation Rate
92%
Percent Receiving Loans
32%
5

New York University 

New York, NY

About this school

A private institution founded in 1831, New York University offers a master's degree in social work through the Silver School of Social Work. The program emphasizes clinical social work practice through its focus on research-informed, direct practice skills. Students interested in policy practice can also pursue coursework in global social work practice, community social work, and policy.

The MSW curriculum at NYU blends generalist training with specialized practice courses. Students take classes in social work practice, human behavior in the social environment, social welfare programs, social work research, and field instruction. During the program, graduate students examine the links between practice, research, and policy.

At NYU, students without a BSW can earn their MSW in 16-24 months through the accelerated program. NYU also offers an advanced standing program for students with a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Working professionals can choose a 32-month program for maximum flexibility. The program requires at least three years of professional or business experience.

Prospective MSW students at NYU must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with at least 60 liberal arts credits. The admissions committee looks for a strong academic record, strong writing and verbal skills, and a commitment to social work. Evidence of work or volunteer experience can also enhance applications. MSW applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

Graduation Rate
85%
Percent Receiving Loans
31%
6

University of Pennsylvania 

Philadelphia, PA

About this school

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League university. The private institution grants a master's of social work degree through the School of Social Policy and Practice. The program prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field, both in clinical practice and within organizations. The curriculum roots itself in the tradition of social justice while integrating cutting-edge innovations.

Penn's social work program emphasizes small class sizes and personalized advising to provide individual attention. Incoming MSW students complete a foundation year that builds knowledge and skills for social work practice. In the second year, students focus their education with a clinical or macro concentration. After meeting core course requirements, MSW students select electives and certificate programs to tailor the degree. Penn offers certificates in child welfare, global human rights, school social work, and other fields.

Penn ranks as one of the best MSW programs for students interested in a dual degree. At Penn, students can choose from 14 dual-degree options. MSW students can also enroll in the program on two-year full-time, three-year part-time, or 10-month advanced standing timelines. Penn also offers an employed practitioner program for experienced social work professionals who plan to complete the MSW in three years while working full time. Prospective students should hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

Graduation Rate
95%
Percent Receiving Loans
13%
7

University of California-Los Angeles 

Los Angeles, CA

About this school

A public research institution, the University of California, Los Angeles grants a master of social welfare degree through the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Social welfare students complete the degree in two years, focusing on core social welfare training and advanced social work practice. The MSW program prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field, including as researchers, clinical practitioners, and administrators.

UCLA emphasizes research skills. The curriculum incorporates a two-year research course sequence, alongside coursework in social welfare research methods, applied statistics in social welfare, and a research capstone. During the research capstone, students develop a project that articulates and addresses a problem in the field.

MSW students also complete field placements to build professional skills. During field placements, students gain experience in direct service, community outreach, research, and advocacy. Second-year students complete field placements related to their concentration and specialization areas. UCLA's program includes concentrations in:

  • Child and family well-being
  • Health and mental health across the lifespan
  • Social and economic justice

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA in upper division courses. The program requires undergraduate coursework in statistics, the socio-behavioral sciences, and the humanities.

Graduation Rate
91%
Percent Receiving Loans
32%
8

University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Madison, WI

About this school

The flagship campus of Wisconsin's system, the University of Wisconsin Madison dates back to 1848. UW grants a master's degree in social work that focuses on social work practice. Students complete the social work degree in four full-time semesters or on a part-time basis through Saturday classes. UW also offers an advanced standing option for incoming students with a BSW.

MSW students complete core courses, coursework in their specialization, and fieldwork requirements to earn their degree. While UW does not require an advanced research course, students can complete an independent research project or master's thesis as an elective. During the first year, social work students gain foundational knowledge in social work. The second year lets students choose an advanced generalist specialization, with options like:

  • Aging
  • Child, youth, and family welfare
  • Health
  • Mental health

Prospective UW students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited program with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also complete 30 credits of social science coursework and an approved statistics class before enrolling. During the admission process, applicants provide transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.

Graduation Rate
87%
Percent Receiving Loans
34%
9

University of Southern California 

Los Angeles, CA

About this school

California's oldest private research institution, the University of Southern California dates back to 1880. USC's School of Social Work grants a master's degree in social work that emphasizes cutting-edge research in areas like child welfare, homelessness, mental illness, and human trafficking. MSW students enroll in the online, on-campus, or working professional track to complete the degree in between four and eight semesters.

The curriculum at USC explores topics like military social work, social change, juvenile justice, and school social work. Students complete field internships based on their interests and practice goals. USC offers specialized tracks in several areas to focus the degree, including:

  • Adult mental health and wellness
  • Children, youth, and families
  • Social change and innovation
  • Military social work

In the military social worker track, students learn to support veterans, active-duty service members, and military families. The unique track prepares graduates for careers helping military service members cope with issues like deployment, combat readiness, and military sexual trauma.

The flexible enrollment options include a master's in social work online for students with a busy schedule. Applicants to USC should hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Advanced standing MSW candidates must hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited institution earned within the past five years. All applicants submit a resume, transcripts, a statement of purpose, and 2-3 letters of recommendation.

Graduation Rate
92%
Percent Receiving Loans
28%
10

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 

Minneapolis, MN

About this school

Located on the Mississippi River, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities operates as the flagship campus of the state's public university system. At UMN, students can earn a master's in social work degree that prepares graduates for advanced social work practice and leadership. The program offers concentration areas in clinical mental health; community practice; families and children; and health, disability, and aging.

Within the concentration areas, MSW students focus on diagnostic assessment, practice evaluation, and treatment. The community practice concentration prepares students to act as catalysts for sustainable development and social justice. Students also complete field instruction requirements with social work agencies. The MSW degree incorporates 600-960 field placement hours, depending on the program option.

The MSW program admits students with a BSW with advanced standing consideration and offers a full program for students without an undergraduate degree in social work. Both programs offer part-time and full-time enrollment options. MSW students complete the program with a mix of daytime, evening, and weekend courses.

Prospective UMN students submit a personal statement, a resume, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a formal academic writing sample. Advanced standing applicants who have less than one year of full-time social work experience should also submit a BSW practicum evaluation or a letter of reference from a BSW practicum supervisor or field faculty.

Graduation Rate
80%
Percent Receiving Loans
46%
11

Boston University 

Boston, MA

About this school

Founded in 1839 as a private research institution, Boston University offers a master's degree in social work backed by over a century of experience in social work education. BU offers individualized enrollment options, including an on-campus program in Boston, three off-campus program sites in Massachusetts, a hybrid program in Worcester, and a master's in social work online option.

BU's social work curriculum combines a theoretical social work foundation with hands-on experience through the field education requirement. Social work students focus their studies with a clinical or macro practice concentration. The multi-method curriculum includes five specialization areas, such as:

  • Children, youth, and families
  • Behavioral health
  • Aging practice, policy, and social justice
  • Trauma and violence
  • Leadership in groups and organizations

Incoming MSW students complete 65 credits to earn their degree. BU's advanced standing track admits students with a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Accepted advanced standing students earn their MSW with 43 credits of coursework and field requirements. The online clinical option prepares students for a clinical social worker license in their state of residence.

Prospective BU students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. The 65-credit program does not set a minimum GPA for admission, but advanced standing applicants must hold a 3.0 GPA. All applicants submit a personal statement, a current resume, three references, and transcripts. BU may conduct phone or Skype interviews for online applicants.

Graduation Rate
88%
Percent Receiving Loans
32%
12

The University of Texas at Austin 

Austin, TX

About this school

Founded in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin operates as the flagship institution of the state's public university system. UT Austin offers a 60-credit master's in social work program with concentration options in clinical social work and administrative and policy practice. The program provides flexible curriculum options, allowing students to earn their MSW in 12-42 months.

The MSW degree at UT Austin trains students in advanced social work practice. Through the foundation and concentration curriculum, the program emphasizes experiential learning and opportunities to apply social work knowledge. In the clinical social work concentration, students study effective treatment modes and best practices for intervening with individuals, families, and groups. The evidence-based curriculum focuses on practice interventions and evaluation skills.

At UT Austin, MSW students complete over 1,000 hours of field practice, with the option to pursue international fieldwork. The program offers certificates in military social work, healthcare, and school social work to customize the degree. Students can also pursue a dual degree in business, public health, law, or public affairs.

The Steve Hicks School of Social Work accepts applications from candidates with a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and a minimum 3.0 GPA in upper-division coursework.

Graduation Rate
83%
Percent Receiving Loans
43%
13

University of Washington 

Seattle, WA

About this school

From its campus overlooking Lake Washington and Mount Rainier, the University of Washington offers a master's degree in social work. The MSW program trains students for leadership and direct-practice roles in a variety of settings. Students tailor the degree by choosing a concentration area, including administration and policy practice, community-centered integrative practice, and clinical social work. The curriculum prioritizes freedom of choice and integrative learning opportunities.

Within the clinical social work concentration, students build engagement, assessment, and intervention skills. By blending theoretical and applied learning, students learn to work with diverse clients. The administration and policy practice concentration focuses on leadership skills for human service organizations, while the community-centered integrative practice concentration brings together the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of social work practice.

At UW, students choose from three degree paths based on their work-life demands and educational background. The day program enrolls students in a traditional two-year program, while the advanced standing option lets students complete their degree within 10 months. The extended degree MSW appeals to working adults looking for a three-year, part-time option.

Prospective social work students should hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Advanced standing applicants should hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program earned in the past five years. The admissions committee looks for a minimum 3.0 in BSW coursework or at least a cumulative 3.5 GPA in required major courses.

Graduation Rate
84%
Percent Receiving Loans
26%
14

University of Iowa 

Iowa City, IA

About this school

Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa operates as a public research institution. UI offers a master's in social work program that prepares graduates for leadership roles in social work, including clinical practice. By emphasizing family systems and social change, the program trains social workers with the skills required to work with diverse populations.

MSW students at UI complete foundation courses that cover core competencies in the field, including a first-year seminar and coursework in social justice and social welfare. Students then choose an advanced concentration to focus their coursework.

At UI, social work students can enroll in a regular, 60-credit program or a 48-credit advanced standing program designed for candidates with a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. UI also offers an accelerated advanced standing option for students who meet requirements and hold a minimum 3.2 cumulative GPA with a minimum 3.5 GPA in social work major courses.

Social work students can choose a master's in social work online option that operates on a three-year, part-time basis. Candidates for the online program must live in a state bordering Iowa with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective social work students submit a statement of purpose, two essays, a current resume including employment and volunteer experience, and three reference forms. Applicants also submit official transcripts from all colleges attended.

Graduation Rate
73%
Percent Receiving Loans
47%
15

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

Champaign, IL

About this school

Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public institution. At Illinois, students can earn a master's of social work degree that prepares graduates for advanced social work practice or research roles. Social work students can pursue a concentration in leadership and social change or advanced clinical practice. Within the advanced clinical concentration, students focus on mental health; healthcare; schools; or children, youth, and family services.

Within the MSW program, students take foundation and advanced courses. Both concentrations incorporate field requirements, wherein students gain hands-on experience. Incoming students with a BSW from an accredited program complete nine courses and a one-semester internship, while students without a BSW complete 14 courses and a two-semester internship in their concentration area.

Illinois offers three enrollment options. The campus program lets students pursue full- or part-time study as traditional social work students or advanced standing students. The iMSW program lets students take online and blended courses, including no more than four weekends of in-person classes each semester in Urbana or Chicago. The leadership and social change master's in social work online lets students pursue a fully online course of study. Illinois also offers a dual MSW-MBA option for students interested in business.

Prospective students should hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Illinois does not require GRE scores.

Graduation Rate
84%
Percent Receiving Loans
40%
16

Syracuse University 

Syracuse, NY

About this school

A private institution founded in 1870, Syracuse University offers a master of social work degree that prepares students for leadership and clinical roles in the field. The MSW program offers two concentrations: advanced clinical practice prepares students for mental health practice roles, while integrated social work practice trains students interested in leadership roles in human service organizations.

First-year MSW students at Syracuse take foundational coursework in generalist social work practice. The curriculum emphasizes intervention and evaluation methods, social work research, and policy. Courses like social welfare policy, social work practice in mental health, and clinical practice evaluation strengthen core skills.

During their second year, students gain a deeper understanding within their concentration area. Field placements enhance classroom learning, with placements in child welfare, health, schools, and other practice settings. Syracuse offers experiential learning opportunities through nearly 200 human service agencies in New York. Students complete two internships of at least 500 hours each.

Prospective Syracuse MSW students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. During the application process, candidates submit a personal statement addressing their professional goals and experience. Applicants also provide official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a resume. Candidates with a BSW can apply for advanced standing at Syracuse.

Graduation Rate
83%
Percent Receiving Loans
46%
17

University of Pittsburgh 

Pittsburgh, PA

About this school

Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh operates as part of the state's Commonwealth System of Higher Education. The School of Social Work at Pitt dates back to 1918. Today, the program grants a master's degree in social work that lets graduate students specialize in either direct practice with individuals, families, and small groups, or community, organization, and social action. The specialized tracks build on a foundational curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced social work jobs.

At Pitt, social work students study specific practice roles, the application of research for practice, and practice with diverse populations. The curriculum trains students to understand policy influences on practice and advanced practice strategies. During the first year, the generalist curriculum includes courses in social welfare, generalist social work practice, and generalist field education to build experiential knowledge.

In the second year, students take specialized courses depending on their concentration, plus advanced field education. Pitt social work students can earn a certificate to enhance their knowledge and skills in a specific area like:

  • Integrated healthcare
  • Mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Home and school visitor/school social worker
  • Children, youth, and families
  • Human services management

Pitt offers a full-time enrollment option for students without a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program that takes two years. Students can also choose a part-time enrollment option and an advanced standing option for students with a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Pitt does not require GRE scores.

Graduation Rate
83%
Percent Receiving Loans
56%
18

Ohio State University 

Columbus, OH

About this school

A public institution founded in 1870, The Ohio State University offers a master's program in social work that dates back to 1875. Today, Ohio State's program ranks as the oldest continuously accredited social work program at a public university. The flexible enrollment options include an advanced standing track, a traditional track, and an online track.

At Ohio State, MSW students build theoretical knowledge and core competencies in the field through the foundation curriculum. Second-year students pursue an applied course of study in an advanced practice area. Ohio State incorporates extensive field practicum experiences to integrate theory and practice. The program offers emphasis areas in:

  • Aging and health
  • Mental health and substance misuse
  • Child and youth services
  • Community and social justice

Students on the advanced standing track complete the MSW degree with 43 credits, while the traditional program requires 63 credits. The online program lets students take courses on an asynchronous schedule without required login times.

Prospective Ohio State students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Ohio State admits students who do not meet the GPA requirement on a case-by-case basis. Applicants submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a CV or resume, and a statement of purpose describing the applicant's educational and professional goals.

Graduation Rate
84%
Percent Receiving Loans
37%
19

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Chapel Hill, NC

About this school

A public research institution and the flagship campus of the state's university system, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dates back to 1789. UNC Chapel Hill offers a master's degree in social work that emphasizes critical approaches to at-risk populations and the personal skills needed to serve these groups. The program grounds its curriculum in the most current research.

Incoming MSW students complete courses in social welfare policy, human behavior in the social environment, social research, and social work practice. The program offers concentration areas in direct practice -- which provides the clinical skills to work with individuals and small groups -- or in community, management, and policy practice, which prepares graduates for leadership roles in community practice and health services organizations.

MSW students at UNC Chapel Hill complete 62 credits, including a generalist and advanced curriculum. The program also admits students with an accredited BSW degree with advanced standing, which allows students to complete the MSW degree with 40 credits. All students complete field training to strengthen their professional skills.

UNC Chapel Hill requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution to gain admission to the MSW program. Applicants submit three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, official transcripts, and a current resume. The MSW program prefers candidates with social work experience. The admissions committee conducts interviews for certain applicants.

Graduation Rate
89%
Percent Receiving Loans
28%
20

Michigan State University 

East Lansing, MI

About this school

Michigan State University dates back to 1855 and operates as a public research university. MSU offers a master's degree in social work that blends research and practice to train future social workers. MSW concentrations include clinical social work -- which prepares graduates for careers that require a clinical social work license -- and organization and community leadership, which caters to students interested in leadership roles in communities and organizations.

MSU offers a regular MSW program for social work graduate students who do not hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program granted within the past six years. The program includes 57 credits of coursework, which students complete on a full- or part-time schedule. The program offers a hybrid online program for part-time students who attend a summer institute and complete coursework online. The master's in social work online option only admits Michigan residents and those within 50 miles of the Michigan border.

Students can also choose the advanced standing program with a CSWE-accredited BSW and a minimum 3.25 GPA. Advanced standing MSW students complete 38 credits to earn their degree. Prospective MSU students must hold a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The admissions committee requires letters of reference and evidence of personal qualities considered important for social work practice. MSU does not require GRE scores for MSW applicants.

Graduation Rate
80%
Percent Receiving Loans
41%
21

University of Utah 

Salt Lake City, UT

About this school

Founded in 1850, the University of Utah offers over 90 graduate programs, including a master's degree in social work. The social work program at The U draws on an advanced generalist perspective to promote collaborative work in public service and research. MSW students gain micro, mezzo, and macro practice experience working with diverse client populations and systems. Within the program, students can select an area of focus, with options like child welfare, aging, forensic social work, and global social work.

The advanced standing MSW at The U requires 45 credits and lets students complete their degree in three semesters. The U also offers a two-year full-time MSW program and a three-year part-time MSW option, both of which require 60 credits. Students seeking a flexible option can also choose an online MSW, which admits students each fall.

During the MSW program, students complete coursework and practicum requirements. Field education places students in an agency to engage in supervised social work activities. The practicum helps social workers build their skills and identify areas of interest.

Prospective social work students submit official transcripts, four professional recommendations, a personal statement, and a resume. The U also evaluates candidates for admission based on a clinical and ethical case study analysis and a timed social issues essay. In some cases, the admissions committee requests an interview with an applicant.

Graduation Rate
70%
Percent Receiving Loans
30%
22

University of Missouri-Columbia 

Columbia, MO

About this school

The flagship institution in Missouri's public university system, the University of Missouri dates back to 1839. Mizzou offers a master's degree in social work designed to train competent, effective, and ethical social workers. MSW students build advanced clinical social work skills while strengthening policy, planning, and administrative abilities. The program offers a master's in social work online option for students seeking a flexible enrollment option.

Mizzou offers a 60-credit regular standing program for students without a BSW degree and a 39-credit advanced standing option for students with a BSW degree. Both offer online enrollment options designed to serve students in rural Midwest communities in need of social work professionals. The online option lets working professionals complete an MSW degree while holding a full-time job.

MSW students at Mizzou who choose the clinical practice concentration study social work practice for individuals, families, small groups, and communities. Mizzou also offers a policy, planning, and administration concentration for students interested in macro-level roles as policy-makers, advocates, and managers in social services organizations.

Prospective Mizzou MSW students should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA overall or in their last 60 credits of coursework. Applicants provide a resume, transcripts, three professional letters of reference, and a personal statement. Advanced standing applicants should also provide field practicum information, including a copy of their most recent field evaluation.

Graduation Rate
69%
Percent Receiving Loans
44%
23

Washington University in St Louis 

Saint Louis, MO

About this school

A private institution in Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis offers a master's in social work program through the Brown School. The program emphasizes evidence-based practice that creates systemic and sustainable impact. By integrating advanced practice skills and theoretical approaches, the Brown School curriculum prepares graduates for a variety of career paths in social work.

At Washington University, social work students complete 60 credits on a two-year schedule to earn their degree. The curriculum emphasizes an evidence-based approach that connects theory to practice. Through real-world learning experiences and research opportunities, students apply their knowledge outside of the classroom. When completing practicum requirements, students can select their own sites to gain experience in organizations aligned with their professional interests.

MSW students choose a concentration to focus their study and a specialization that provides expertise in an area. Washington University offers unique concentrations like social impact leadership; American Indian and Alaska native; and violence and injury prevention. MSW students can also choose concentrations in individualized practice, healthcare, or mental health. Specialization options include management, policy, research, and system dynamics. The program also lets students create individualized concentrations.

The Brown School considers applicants on the basis of their commitment to social work, undergraduate GPA, specialized training, human service-related experience, and professional recommendations.

Graduation Rate
95%
Percent Receiving Loans
19%
24

University of Kansas 

Lawrence, KS

About this school

From its Lawrence campus, the University of Kansas grants a master's degree in social work with flexible enrollment options. Social work students can complete the 64-credit MSW degree on campus either full time or part time, and the program offers day, night, and weekend classes to fit students' schedules. Similarly, the blended enrollment option combines face-to-face meetings every other week with online learning.

The MSW degree at KU gives the option to concentrate on clinical social work or macro-level social work. Within the clinical concentration, students select a practice area, with options like child and family, health and mental health, or aging. Traditional MSW students complete 36 credits of classroom work and 28 practicum credits to earn their degree.

Students complete the field education requirement at community agencies in Kansas and Missouri. The foundational placement, which requires a minimum of 480 hours, introduces students to generalist practice at community mental health centers, child welfare offices, juvenile justice offices, and other settings.

Second-year students then complete an advanced practicum in their concentration area. Advanced standing MSW students meet the foundational placement requirement through their BSW degree and complete a 720-hour practicum during their MSW degree.

KU admits social work students with a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. The MSW program requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, a resume that lists employment and volunteer experience, three references, and college transcripts.

Graduation Rate
65%
Percent Receiving Loans
47%
25

University of Georgia 

Athens, GA

About this school

A public research institution, the University of Georgia dates back to 1785. UGA offers a master's degree in social work that focuses on evidence-based practices, research opportunities, and field internships. Social work students at UGA choose from specializations in clinical practice, community development practice, and integrated micro and macro practice. The program also offers dual master's programs in public health, law, and divinity for graduate students with specific career goals.

At UGA, social work students choose a program of study, including advanced standing for BSW graduates, a full-time program, and a master's in social work online for Georgia residents or those able to complete a field internship in the state of Georgia. First-year students complete core classes and a generalist field placement, with a second specialized practicum in the student's specialty area. MSW students can also complete certificates in marriage and family therapy, gerontology, or nonprofit management and leadership.

Prospective UGA social work students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants submit official transcripts, a narrative statement detailing their commitment to the values of the social work profession, three letters of recommendation, and a resume. UGA no longer requires GRE scores for its MSW program, but applicants can submit scores to demonstrate academic promise.

Graduation Rate
86%
Percent Receiving Loans
33%
👏

End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology

Master's in Social Work Programs Ranking Guidelines

We based the following rankings on academic quality, curricula, faculty strength, internship opportunities, facilities, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

What Is a Master's in Social Work Degree?

A master's in social work program trains students about social work practice, social welfare research, and social work theory.

A master's in social work program trains students about social work practice, social welfare research, and social work theory. Learners study topics like counseling approaches, cognitive treatment methods, clinical assessment, and social welfare planning. Students also complete fieldwork requirements to gain hands-on experience in a social work setting.

Many social work programs offer concentrations that allow students to tailor their degree to their goals and interests. Common concentrations include:

  • Child and Family Social Work
  • School Social Work
  • Healthcare Social Work
  • Community and Social Systems
  • Social Policy
  • Social Work Administration

Students typically complete a traditional MSW program in two years of full-time study, but some programs offer accelerated timelines. For example, incoming students with a bachelor's degree in social work may pursue an advanced standing MSW track, graduating in as little as one year.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Social Work?

The Best Online Master's in Social Work Programs
Find the best online MSW programs and see how you can further your career in social work with the skills learned from an accredited master's in social work online.
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During an online MSW program, students typically complete online courses and in-person field experiences at an approved site in their community. Some online programs incorporate set meeting times to encourage collaboration, while others operate without set log-in times.

The flexibility of the online format may allow students to better balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Online learning also lets students attend top programs across the country without needing to relocate.

Accreditation for Social Work Degree Programs

Students must attend an MSW program that holds programmatic accreditation to meet social work licensure requirements. Additionally, many employers only hire candidates with an accredited degree. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits MSW programs. The council reviews MSW programs based on their curricula, field experience requirements, and faculty qualifications. Programs must undergo regular reviews to maintain their accreditation status.

MSW Advanced Standing Students

Students with a bachelor's in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program may receive advanced standing in an MSW program. Advanced standing status typically allows students to bypass some foundational coursework, expediting graduation by as much as one year.

Master's in Social Work Practicum

MSW programs incorporate field education requirements to teach students the practical skills necessary for social work jobs. A practicum represents a core component of social work training and helps meet social work licensure requirements. During a social work practicum, students strengthen their clinical skills through community-based placements. Graduate students observe practitioners and complete hands-on training under supervision.

The number of required practicum hours varies by program. Most programs require at least 600 hours of field education, which often includes specialized training in the student's focus area.

Types of Social Workers

There are three major types of social workers: macro, direct services, and clinical social workers.

Macro Social Workers

Macro social workers work with communities, large groups of people, major institutions, and cities. Depending on their position, these social workers may advocate for large-scale social policy change, lobby to change healthcare laws, or organize state-wide activist groups. They may also engage in research or work as managers or administrators for community programs.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers

Licensed clinical social workers evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. They may provide individual, group, or family therapy, working in settings such as hospitals, community mental health centers, rehabilitation facilities, and private practice. Clinical social workers often collaborate with professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, and advanced practice psychiatric nurses.

Aspiring social workers should note that the designation for social workers with a clinical social work license varies by state. States may use titles such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed independent social Worker, or licensed independent clinical social worker.

Clinical Social Workers Without a License

These social workers are authorized to practice clinical social work under the supervision of an LCSW. They must earn licensure to practice independently.

Direct Service Social Workers

Direct service social workers connect individuals with relevant resources and services. They may also provide limited counseling services, but they cannot provide psychotherapy. Depending on their role, these professionals may perform intake screenings, make referrals to relevant services, provide mediation services, and perform case management.

Social Work Jobs

Graduates with a master's in social work can pursue careers in several growing fields, working in roles such as mental health counselor, social service manager, and marriage and family therapist. The section below covers several common careers for MSW graduates.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help individuals, couples, and families manage relationship problems through therapy. They encourage clients to discuss their emotions, help people adjust to life changes and modify behaviors, and guide clients through decision-making processes. Marriage and family therapists also connect clients with relevant resources and services.

These professionals need a master's degree and a license to practice. A master's in social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a related field typically meets licensure requirements.

Median Annual Salary

$50,090

Projected Growth Rate

22%

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists offer social services to law offenders to help them make progress toward rehabilitation. They create rehabilitation plans, connect clients with resources, and maintain case files on clients. Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists hold a bachelor's degree in a field like social work or criminal justice. Candidates with a master's degree may qualify for advanced opportunities.

Median Annual Salary

$53,020

Projected Growth Rate

3%

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers oversee social service programs and community organizations. They manage program staff, analyze data to determine a program's effectiveness, suggest improvements to programs, and increase program awareness through outreach activities. They also oversee budgets and may write proposals for funding.

Most social and community service managers hold at least a bachelor's degree in a field like social work, public administration, or business administration plus several years of work experience. Some employers prefer or require a master's degree in social work.

Median Annual Salary

$65,320

Projected Growth Rate

13%

Social Workers

Social workers help clients overcome short-term and long-term challenges. They help clients adjust to life changes, connect clients with community resources, and respond to crisis situations. Social workers may specialize in an area such as school social work, healthcare social work, or child and family social work.

Clinical social workers diagnose and treat behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. They provide therapy, create treatment plans, and coordinate with other healthcare professionals. Clinical social workers must hold a master's degree in social work and a license to practice.

Median Annual Salary

$49,470

Projected Growth Rate

11%

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors help clients manage substance use, mental health, and behavioral disorders. They meet with clients to evaluate their needs, create customized treatment plans, and work with clients on behavior modification techniques.

Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors need a bachelor's degree, while mental health counselors generally need a master's degree to practice.

Median Annual Salary

$44,630

Projected Growth Rate

22%

How Much Do Social Workers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median social worker salary exceeds $49,000 per year. However, social work salaries depend on factors like a worker's location, degree, and industry. For example, the typical salary for a professional who holds a master's in social work exceeds that of a bachelor's degree-holder. Similarly, clinical social workers generally earn higher salaries than nonclinical social workers.

As with other fields, social workers often see an increase in their earning potential if they gain experience, an advanced degree, and/or specialized skills.

Payscale Median Salary Information for Social Workers as of February 2020
Position Salary
Social Worker (MSW) $35,000 - $63,000
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) $42,000 - $77,000
Clinical Social Worker $40,000 - $78,000
School Social Worker $38,000 - $68,000
Source: Payscale
BLS Median Salary Information for Social Workers as of May 2018
Position Salary
Healthcare Social Workers $56,200
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $46,270
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $44,840
Source: BLS

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